The crackers have been pulled, the decorations are down, the credit card bills are in but this was King George Day as a late but still fabulous Christmas present!
All eyes were on the living legend that is Kauto Star, bidding to send the Grandstand roof into orbit by landing his fifth consecutive King George and the tapes went up to a roar of Festival proportions. It was the young pretender and last year’s Feltham victor Long Run who won the race in tremendous style by 12 lengths from stablemate Riverside Theatre. Kauto came home in third place after never travelling with his usual zest under A.P and was already beaten when making an almighty blunder at the second last.
The six year old Long Run is now as short as 4/1 in places for The Gold Cup. The jury is out as to whether Cheltenham is his track though. He was third in the RSA last year and third in the Paddy Power Gold Cup in November but has never looked at home on the Prestbury undulations. It seems to be his class (which he has by the bucket load!) that carries him into the placings at Cheltenham. The thought of him flying the Mildmay Fences at Aintree however is a mouth-watering one! Last year’s fourth Nacarat again filled the same place after making most of the running, his Trainer Tom George reported that he got very tired on the soft ground. He will now head to the Ryanair at The Festival.
Long Run gave Nicky Henderson his fifth winner of the afternoon and his second Grade One of the afternoon after reigning Champion Hurdler Binocular produced a faultless display of jumping to take The Christmas Hurdle. The Ebor and Galway Hurdle winner Overturn ran a fantastic race to finish 3 ¾ lengths second. He had set the pace only to be passed stylishly by Binocular on the home turn. Last year’s Champion Hurdle second Khyber Kim was off the bridle turning for home as was Starluck who finished third. Khyber Kim was reported by Trainer Nigel Twiston–Davies as needing the race badly.
Binocular will reappear before The Champion Hurdle in The Contenders Hurdle at Sandown in February the race that set him back on the road to Cheltenham glory last year. As I have said before The Champion Hurdle is looking likely to be THE race of The Festival. Even more clues will be unveiled after next week’s Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown in which we see Hurricane Fly, Solwhit and Dunguib compete. Solwhit has been ruled out of Cheltenham and will instead wait for Aintree in April. Hurricane Fly has impressed us with his two starts so far this season and it will be fascinating to see Dunguib in action after his long break since The Punchestown Festival.
Blown away by Court in Motion at Warwick
I was at a very windy Warwick yesterday were I witnessed a couple of Festival ‘trial races’ in the shape of the Pertemps Hurdle Qualifier and the Neptune Hurdle. The former went to Mobaasher with Alfie Spinner staying on in second. Both these impressed with their attitude and could well factor in the Pertemps at the Festival.
However, it was Court In Motion in the Neptune that ‘blew me away’ coming home 21 lengths in front of Neptune Equester. The winner travelled really nicely throughout and the race was won over a mile from home. He may not have beaten much and the ground is likely to be very different in March, but this was a very taking performance. He could go for the race of the same name on the Wednesday for which he’s a general 12/1 shot or run in the Albert Bartlett on the Friday. Some bookies make him favourite for the latter with 7/1 being the best price.